JOHANNESBURG - Stony faces and silence
were the unusual reactions of Slovakia's players after stunning
Italy 3-2 to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and send
the holders home on Thursday.
Having caused a shock on the pitch, they pulled off another
off it when they filed past reporters with barely a flicker of
emotion on their faces and refused to talk about the tournament
debutants' biggest footballing moment.
Relations between the team and media have soured in South
Africa with players annoyed over criticism of their first two
performances and Thursday's silence marked a new low.
Slovak FA president Frantisek Laurinec was less than
impressed with news the players had traipsed in single file
behind captain Marek Hamsik and had mostly avoided eye contact.
"I will wish (coach) Mr (Vladimir) Weiss and the players to
normalise relations," Laurinec told reporters when asked what he
would do before the next match.
"Football is our players, our coaches, the spectators, the
supporters and also the media."
Slovakia drew their first Group F match with New Zealand,
conceding a last-minute equaliser, and lost 2-0 to Paraguay,
finishing second behind the South Americans to reach the last 16
on their first appearance as an independent nation.
Several minutes after the players had left, team officials
in pinstripe suits walked past, stopping to take photographs as
they enjoyed their rare moment in the limelight.
Team doctor Villam Fischer offered a medical explanation for
the players' behaviour.
"I'm a cardio surgeon, I know what shock is - they are in
shock. This win against Italy is a shock for our players," he
told Reuters with a smile.
Team spokeswoman Marianna Cizmarova was surprised to hear
the players had not spoken. She denied they had been told by
coach Weiss not to talk, adding: "They are just excited because
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